Eglinton West LRT

Open House - November 13, 2017

Highlights Report

This concise Highlights Report has been prepared to provide the City of Toronto and their partners Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Metrolinx with a snapshot of the feedback captured at the public meeting held on Monday, November 13, 2017.

Introduction
On Monday, November 13, 2017, the City of Toronto together with their partners TTC and Metrolinx hosted a public meeting on the Eglinton West LRT. The meeting was held at Martingrove Collegiate Institute, located at 50 Winterton Drive, Etobicoke.

The public meeting provided an overview of the Eglinton West LRT, including preliminary findings regarding preferred stop locations, Stage 1, 2 and 3 findings regarding potential grade separation locations and information on additional studies including Martin Grove and Eglinton West Area Study, the Airport Segment Feasibility Study, and the upcoming Traffic Optimization and Corridor Planning work.

The meetings featured a series of 22 display panels, two roll maps and a large welcome map to provide information on the Eglinton West LRT. Participants could move freely between display panels and map displays and speak with Project Team members from the City, TTC and Metrolinx as well as the consultant team.

At 7:00 p.m., following an introduction by the meeting’s facilitator, Avril Fisken (AECOM), a presentation of the project elements, including introductory information, preliminary study results and next steps, was given by Mike Logan (City of Toronto) and Maria Doyle (City of Toronto). Immediately following the presentation, participants had the opportunity to ask questions of clarification as well as provide feedback related to the Corridor Planning Study and/or the Grade Separation Analysis.

Approximately 325 individuals signed into the public meeting, including elected officials Yvan Baker, MPP Etobicoke Centre. Councillor John Campbell (Ward 4) and representing from Councillor Stephen Holyday (Ward 3).

Highlights of Participant Feedback
The information below provides an overview of the Question and Answer session that followed the presentation. Questions are noted with a “Q”, comments with a “C” and answers with “A”. Answers were provided by City, TTC and Metrolinx staff, unless noted otherwise.

Questions of Clarification

Q1: Has a completely underground LRT option been considered? 

A1: The first environmental assessment (EA) conducted in 2010 studied a completely underground and completely above-grade options. Both of these options were not carried forward due to the lower expected future travel demand versus the costs for high of implementation. A fully grade separated option was It was then studied again as part of the 2015 Western Corridor Feasibility Review – and during the 2016 Initial Business Case (IBC), where it was determined that the fully grade separated options had significant community and property impacts, did not meet local access objectives due to the limited number of stops as well as having significantly higher costs. In November 2016, Council directed the City to study potential grade separation options at six locations, with the rest of the LRT running at-grade. 

C1: We should be stopping at main streets only, not at small intersections.

Q2: How can an underground transit system have property impacts?

A2: Underground transit systems may to have significant property impacts on property because of excavation, tiebacks and connections to utilities, in addition to additional infrastructure like stairway and elevator accesses, ventilation shafts, emergency exits, etc.

Q3: What is the earliest date construction along Eglinton would start? What is the earliest date construction to the airport would start?

A3: Detailed design for the Eglinton West LRT is not anticipated to begin until 2019 at the earliest, therefore, the earliest construction could start would be in the early 2020’s. Dates will need to be confirmed by Council in April 2018.

Q4: Can someone clarify the term ‘heavy rail’? Is this because you are avoiding saying ‘subway’?

A4: Heavy rail is not the same as subway. Heavy rail in reference to railway systems like our current GO Transit lines or CN/CP trains. Heavy rail along Eglinton Avenue West was studied as part of the SmartTrack Western Feasibility Review in 2015. At that time, completely above-grade or completely below-grade options were not determined to be the best option due to the significant community impacts, the limited ridership and the high-cost of implementing a heavy rail line on the area.

Q5: Can the Project Team clarify what is being proposed at the Islington intersection?

A5: The Project Team has examined the option of an above-grade structure that would go over top of the existing roadway. The structure would have access points that extend to each corner of the Islington/Eglinton intersection to provide access to the station.

Q6: In the existing versus future rendering of Eglinton, the existing area has room for four lanes of traffic and grade to the left and right. How will there be room for all four lanes and a right-of-way for the LRT to fit in this space?

A6: There is capacity in the right-of-way to add in the additional components required for the LRT. Turning lanes are not illustrated because they have not been determined yet.

Questions and Comments regarding the Grade Separation Analysis

It is beneficial to note that much of the discussion regarding the grade separation analysis was heated as many participants expressed their desire for an underground subway system or nothing at all. Due to this, staff were often not able to provide complete responses without being interrupted by other participants.

Q1: It seems like the eight evaluation criteria used for the Grade Separation Analysis are very high level. How was this evaluation criteria validated to make sure it properly represents the community’s values and perspectives as opposed to the City’s values?

A1: Each of the criteria are consistent with the framework that has been used since the 2012 Feeling Congested? Campaign. This campaign included input from over 12,000 people, who were engaged, both in-person and online to identify the criteria that the community felt were most important to them. Please review our criteria in detail. The community's comments are an important part of the validation.

Q2: It seems like the ‘Affordability’ criteria has not covered the impact to local residents and the value of their properties, is this correct?

A2: If you feel an evaluation criteria has been missed, please provide your suggestions and comments using your discussion guide. Impacts to property value was not considered as part of affordability.

Q3: I work in the area and do not use Eglinton because the traffic makes it impossible. As condominiums continue to be built on the north side of Eglinton, traffic will get worse. Can the City conduct a traffic study to find a solution for the increasing levels of traffic?

A3: (Metrolinx) Detailed traffic modelling has been conducted as part of the grade separation analysis to determine the ‘benefits’ to travel time. We are happy to supply the detailed spreadsheets of the modelling results for your review.

(City) A grade separation would only address any additional traffic issues that may be introduced by the LRT itself, not the existing traffic issues. This is why the additional studies such as the Martin Grove and Eglinton work are being conducted, to try to provide solutions to current issues. Once the final project concept is confirmed, we can also move forward on conducting work on traffic infiltration, left-turns and corridor optimization. Information on these studies can be found the display panels (also found under ‘Current Work’ online).

Q4: Is changing the grade of the intersections an option, rather than changing the grade of the LRT right-of-way?

A4: Changing the grade of an entire intersection is a much more challenging approach which is why the Project Team focused on changing the grade of the LRT right-of-way.

Q5: (Yvon Baker, MPP Etobicoke Centre) At the Islington intersection, a below-grade option should be studied instead of an above-grade option.

A5: (Urban Strategies Inc.) Regarding the Islington intersection, an above-grade option was studied as it was the feasible configuration identified for this location during the first phase of the work. On the north side of Islington, the slope is too steep for the LRV to climb back up to grade. It would be very difficult to achieve a stop at Wincott if the LRT were to travel below-grade at this location.

Q6: (Yvon Baker, MPP Etobicoke Centre) The evaluation criteria does not seem appropriate for this study. The value of people’s time should be a priority. It makes no sense that an underground option would be worse for commuters than an at-grade option. There is little emphasis on the impact to local neighbourhoods due to the increase of traffic. How can the community’s experience be better with an at-grade system than a below-grade system? How can an at-grade LRT that will cause an increase in noise, vibration and pollution be better for our health than a below-grade LRT?

Q7: (Yvon Baker, MPP Etobicoke Centre) I recommend a community working group be established to work in partnership with the City on this project.

A7: A Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAG) has already been formed and new community groups have recently been added. The Project Team is here to listen. We need attendees to take the time to provide comments in the discussion guides related to the evaluation criteria so we know what to improve.

Q8: How many additional billions would it cost to build below grade?

A8: The estimated cost of a below-grade LRT is $3 billion. The estimated cost of an at-grade LRT is $1.5 billion.

C2: Convenience is missing from the evaluation criteria. Without a convenience factor, the LRT will not gain ridership. Without an underground tunnel, there will not be convenience. A long-term plan must be put in place instead of a short-term solution.

Q9: The Eglinton corridor is currently a very dangerous area for pedestrians. Will the Project Team study the potential for increased risk to pedestrians due to at-grade rapid transit?

A9: Pedestrian safety is captured in the evaluation criteria. A detailed evaluation chart is available for review outside and is online under our project materials.

Q10:You mentioned that the traffic infiltration study isn't complete yet. How can the Project Team present findings when proper studies have not yet been conducted? How can you determine the value of time?

A10: (Metrolinx) Preliminary work on the traffic infiltration study has shown that traffic infiltration to neighbourhood streets would be minimal. This will be completed after we get direction on grade separation.  Regarding the value of time, Metrolinx uses a standard metric to determine this. The value of time is related to the average hourly wage within the study area. We use this statistic in our studies as it is a standard, peer reviewed method used across the world. Further work on traffic optimization, traffic infiltration and left turns will be conducted on the final project concept has been confirmed.

Q11: How can we still be talking about a potential connection to the airport? Why has this not been finalized?

A11: (Metrolinx) When the initial EA in 2010 for the LRT was undertaken the route into the airport was undefined. Metrolinx, with their partners the City of Mississauga, the GTAA the City of Toronto and the TTC are currently finalizing this route from the Renforth Station location of the Mississauga Transitway – at Commerce Blvd. into the airport. We expect to report back to the community with the preferred options in early 2018.

Other Comments or Questions during the Discussion Period

It is beneficial to note that a large percentage of attendees identified themselves as drivers in the area and expressed the desire for a subway along Eglinton instead of the proposed LRT. The following questions and comments reflect the general nature of opinions from the majority of the group.

Q1: It seems like the Project Team is reluctant to study a completely below-grade system because of cost. If funding is the issue, why not connect with the provincial or federal levels of government? Taking the project to higher levels of government turns it into a political issue which community members can vote on.

A1: Negotiations between the Province and the City of Toronto have already taken place. The City has also approached the federal government and the Eglinton West LRT has been identified as a priority project eligible for a federal funding opportunity. City council has directed the Project Team to study the potential grade separation that we have presented today, not to study a completely below-grade system.

C1: Looking around the room I want to point out that this group does not properly represent some of the key demographics of the area.

C2: Prior to tonight, what public input was collected from local residents and community because typically we’re given an option that is more focused than what a lot of people would expect. If the people of this community want it underground, that’s what should be done.

C3: If the people of this community want an underground transit system, the City should provide us with options for an underground transit system.

C4: This seems like a PR meeting because simple questions related to cost cannot be answered. Nobody gave the community the option to pay for the additional cost of implementing an underground transit system.

C5: (Yvon Baker, MPP Etobicoke Centre) I am concerned about the outcomes of what has been studied thus far. I have been advocating for the tunneling of the LRT for a long time. A year and a half ago a similar public meeting took place and community members stated that they wanted an underground transit system or nothing at all. What has been studied since the last public meeting does not seem to reflect the community’s requests. Isolating the grade separation analysis at each intersection is not going to be viable. We need to study a completely underground system.

C6: Eglinton is bottle necked not just at Martin Grove but also at Islington and Scarlett. I don’t see how we’re going to be able to handle increased traffic with the proposed LRT. Would like to see a more strategic move. We need City of Toronto, City of Mississauga and the Province at the table. If this will truly be a major arterial route for the GTA, this plan won’t service us properly. We need to coordinate a study that is truly strategic for the GTA.

C7: Look at the big picture. People want underground. This can connect to other parts of the subway system in the GTA. Why not study exactly what it will cost for completely underground. We need money invested here.

C8: We love Etobicoke for what it is and the City is trying to turn it into an area like St. Clair. Is anyone listening to the community? Why is the City trying to change Etobicoke?

C9: The St. Clair Streetcar operates beautifully. Has anyone been out there lately?

C10: Some local residents would be happy to pay $1000 more in property taxes every year to cover the cost of a subway. Countless cities in Europe removed their LRT system to build a subway. The way of the future is a subway and that’s what the people want to see built.

C11: I advocated strongly for an underground subway. Eglinton is currently under construction. How much money are we spending on that to have it torn up again? It bothers me that we will have an unnecessary one-stop underground subway in Scarborough but the west end cannot get an underground transit system. We deserve better than the options that have been presented.

C12: I took the bus here and as a transit user, I do not want to travel underground. Many people at this meeting are only thinking of travel time for cars, not travel time for those of us who use public transit. I would prefer an at-grade LRT.

C13: Instead of using Eglinton as the corridor, use Dixon because it would provide a direct connection to the airport.

C14: There isn’t much space to install an at-grade or above-grade LRT. Below-grade would be the best option.

C15: What are the additional property taxes local residents would pay? What would the cost per property amount to in order to cover the $3 billion cost of an underground LRT?

C16: I commend the local Councillors for recommending an underground transit system. The City of Toronto acquired land on the north side of Eglinton for the purposes of establishing a transit corridor but then sold the land to developers to build condos.

C17: The City has owned property in this area since the 1940’s but it has been sold off to developers. This has caused an increase of traffic, creating extra travel time for local residents. Can’t you take the earnings of these sales and use it for an underground LRT?

C18: Bottleneck traffic exists along Eglinton at Martin Grove, Islington and Scarlett. The Eglinton corridor will not be able to handle increased traffic caused by the LRT. We need the City of Toronto, City of Mississauga and the Province to work together. If the Eglinton corridor will act as a major arterial road in the GTA in the future, then the plan for the Eglinton West LRT will not service us properly.

C19: The local community wants an underground subway so that it can connect to the other subway lines throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). More money must be invested to study the exact cost of implementing a completely underground system.

C20: A world class city should have a world class subway system. Etobicoke taxpayers funded the other subway systems such as Sheppard. Maybe other areas of the City should help fund an Etobicoke subway system.

C21: What is the ridership like for the buses currently travelling on Eglinton? The traffic system seems to require north/south transit, not east/west transit. It seems like no one uses the new BRT system in Mississauga as many buses drive around empty.

Focused Discussions: Martin Grove Area / Airport Study / Stop Locations / Corridor Planning Study

  • Build a completely below-grade LRT
  • Study a completely below-grade transit system
  • Build a subway instead of the LRT
  • Build a subway or nothing at all
  • Do not remove the stop at Rangoon, particularly due to the neighbourhoods west of Highway 427 and south of Eglinton
  • Why are the stops at Rangoon, East Mall and Renforth being removed?
  • The stop at Rangoon must be built
  • The stop at East Mall must be built as it is a need for those who travel north on the 111 Bus and want to travel west to Mississauga
  • There are too many stops, the LRT would be more efficient with fewer stops
  • Will another form of public transit service the areas of Rangoon, East Mall and Renforth once the LRT is in place?
  • Will the Eglinton Crosstown LRT continue through to Eglinton West or transfer at Black Creek?
  • Consider spacing restrictions underneath the 427/ 27 bridges
  • Consider the buried utilities along Eglinton west of Martin Grove
  • Do not implement Michigan Lefts
  • Consider the impact on travel time in and out of local neighbourhoods
  • Consider pedestrian safety along the Eglinton corridor
  • What are the potential property acquisitions / impacts?
  • Confirm the connection to the airport
  • The Airport Segment would provide a good connection to the UP Express which would provide a good link to downtown
  • Consider the interactions with autonomous cars in the future
  • Why is the stop at Commerce Boulevard named ‘Renforth Station’?
  • Alternative routes to alleviate congestion at Martin Grove include Richgrove Drive to Willowridge Road to Eglinton Avenue West to Highway 27 and Highway 427 or Winterton Drive, left toward Highway 27 and Highway 427
  • What does the evaluation criteria mean and how was it determined?
  • There is not enough room to expand the right-of-way to include all existing traffic lanes and the LRT
  • The traffic issues along the Eglinton corridor are already severe, will traffic issues increase with the introduction of the LRT?
  • The Eglinton West corridor is similar to the St. Claire corridor
  • Realign the LRT via Weston and Dixon
  • How long will it take to travel the Eglinton West LRT corridor, then the Eglinton Crosstown to Scarborough? What is the travel time from Pearson Airport to Scarborough?
  • Build the at-grade LRT to provide more transit options in Etobicoke
  • The attendance at the public meeting does not represent some of the key demographics within the study area
  • Where is the Eglinton West LRT prioritized in comparison to other City of Toronto transit projects?

The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

Next Steps

City Staff will prepare a report to City Council in December 2017 with recommended grade separations and stop locations.